Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Tom Edlin

Jul 30 2019

According to new research carried out by the CDC, more than one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep.  The American Academy of Sleep Science recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. The average American is only getting 6.8 hours, with 40% getting less than 6 hours. This may not seem like a big deal upfront, but research shows that sleep is critical for longterm health and wellbeing. The effects of sleep deprivation, simply put, should not be taken lightly.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Although getting a lack of sleep occasionally may not be a big concern, if you are frequently missing out on good sleep, you may need to start worrying about the long term effects of sleep deprivation.

Mood Changes

A sleep-deprived person may be more irritable and quick to anger than someone who is getting a good night’s sleep. Not only does the person who isn’t sleeping well feel bad, but those around him also suffer. You may find your friendships and other relationships taking a turn for the worse if you struggle with chronic sleep deprivation.

Difficulty Focusing

If you are sleep deprived, you may also have trouble concentrating on things like work or school. This can hinder your road to success by making it harder to learn, decreasing your problem-solving skills, and making you more prone to mistakes. Lack of focus due to sleep deprivation can also lead to traffic accidents. The National Highway Association estimates that tiredness leads to around thousands of crashes and crash-related deaths in the US each year because the effects of sleep deprivation can lead to reaction times slowing down as much as those of a drunk driver.

Weakened Immune System

You’ve probably heard that sleep is essential for recovery when people are sick. Well, it’s also important for ensuring you don’t get sick in the first place! People who suffer from sleep deprivation end up with weakened immune systems, meaning that you’re more prone to catching colds and viruses.

Chronic Illness

The risk of developing a serious chronic illness can dramatically increase in people who don’t get their recommended amount of sleep each night.  These can include diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart failure, and heart attack, among others.

Weight Gain

Reduced sleep has been associated with a decrease in the hormone leptin, which is a hormone that makes your stomach feel full. Because of this, sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger, even if you ate only recently. The body’s preferred source of energy (particularly since you’re tired) is carbohydrate (including sugar) foods. The result? Weight gain.

So how best to combat the effects of sleep deprivation? By getting enough quality sleep, of course. Here’s how:

5 Tips to Beat Sleep Deprivation

1. Drink less caffeine.

Let’s face it: most of us are addicted to caffeine. An estimated 85% of adults in America consume at least one caffeinated beverage a day. Consuming caffeine even six hours before you sleep can cause your total sleep time to be reduced by one hour. To sleep better, reduce the amount of caffeine you consume each day and limit your caffeine intake to morning hours.

2. Get more exercise.

You may be surprised to know just how important exercise is in regulating your sleep. Studies have found that performing a single session of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, can help to achieve a better night’s sleep for people suffering from insomnia. It reduces the time taken to fall asleep and lengthens the total time of sleep.  It should also be noted that exercising in the evening doesn’t seem to have any noticeable negative effect on your sleep, despite many people believing the contrary. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that those exercising close to their bedtime had no extra difficulty in falling asleep than those who had exercised earlier on in the day.

3. Get a new mattress.

Many people continue using their old mattress for far too long. While mattress lifespan varies between brands, the average is around 7 years. It depends on the materials which the mattress is constructed from as well as how you care for it. Although it may seem like a big cost to replace your mattress it is typically a good investment because of how long more modern mattresses last and many companies such as Saatva and Nectar will also offer free trial periods and multiyear or lifetime warranties on a new mattress for you. On top of this, it’s worth stating just how important a good mattress is for a good night’s rest.  A high-quality mattress will support your body and provide effective temperature control. The result is less tossing and turning at night so you’ll wake up in the morning feeling fully rested.

4. Avoid screens before bed.

In the modern world, people are frequently fixated on screens, whether they are TVs, phones, tablets, or computers. Our electronic devices provide excess stimulation, which can mean our brains find it hard to switch off and sleep. Furthermore, the blue light that screens give off is also detrimental to our sleep, as it reduces the natural production of melatonin that the body uses to regulate sleep.  Limit device usage before bed to give your brain time to relax and unwind before going to bed.

5. Keep your sleeping pattern regular.

Keeping your bedtime and the time you wake up the same throughout the week is important to achieving enough sleep. Your body naturally regulates when you feel tired at night and wake up in the morning using its “body clock”. Changing the times that you go to bed and get up can interrupt its rhythm and mean that you have more difficulty in achieving a meaningful rest when you do sleep. If you’re having trouble waking up early consistently, you can read some tips here.

Sweet Dreams

If lack of sleep is plaguing you, follow the above tips to avoid the negative effects of sleep deprivation.  You’ll ultimately feel better, be more productive and efficient during the day, and your body will thank you for it.

 

 

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